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Harrison beats Basilashvili to win Memphis Open

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —¬†Ryan Harrison served up the ace that won him his first career ATP World Tour title, then stuck both hands over his head pointing index fingers skyward in celebration.

A tour title.

Finally.

Better yet, Harrison won before family, friends and supporters who watched him grow up in Shreveport, Louisiana, on a court at the tennis club he knew intimately before ever playing his first professional match here.

Harrison beat Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday to win the Memphis Open at The Racquet Club.

“It’s always special to win a title, and especially your first one,” an emotional Harrison said. “But when you’re winning it like this in front of our family and friends and people who’ve come out and supported you ever since I was playing 10 and under events … it definitely means a lot to win that in front of everybody like that.”

Harrison, 24, took the first set in 27 minutes before fighting off 10 break points in the second to win the match in 1 hour, 16 minutes. For the match, Harrison saved all 12 break points faced.

He took home the winner’s check of $114,595 and 250 points. This victory is expected to move Harrison to No. 43 in the world, matching his career-best ranking reached in July 2012. Since then, the American had dipped to as low as 197 in the rankings as recently as Oct. 20, 2014. Last March, Harrison was just 168th to make this climb back even more special.

“For me to be where I am now and where I was seven, eight months ago and feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s surreal,” Harrison said. “I honestly can’t believe it. It’s just so amazing to me.”

He joined Gilles Muller (Sydney) as a first-time winner on tour this year and is the first to make Memphis his inaugural ATP title since Joachim Johansson in 2004. Harrison also became the 14th American to win Memphis in the 41-year history of this indoor event and first since Andy Roddick in 2011.

With a Challenger title won in Dallas two weeks ago, Harrison is the first since David Goffin in 2014 to win a Challenger event and then an ATP title in back-to-back tournaments. He teamed with Steve Johnson in the doubles final after a quick turnaround and lost 6-3, 6-4 to American Brian Baker and Nikola Mektic of Croatia.

This was Basilashvili’s second career ATP final and first since Kitzbuehel last year. He knocked off top-seeded Ivo Karlovic in the second round. He upset Dominic Thiem, ranked eighth in the world, to reach the semifinals in Sofia last week. Basilashvili said he just didn’t have the energy to cover the court as he had in matches over the past two weeks.

Harrison handled Basilashvili’s powerful strokes by moving way back from the baseline, often playing shots a step behind the Memphis logo on either end of the court.

In the first set, Basilashvili had his best chance to break Harrison in the first game at 15-40. Basilashvili crashed to the court moving to his right on his first break point as Harrison pushed the game to deuce and held serve when Basilashvili put a backhand into the net. Harrison broke Basilashvili to go up 3-1 and again in the sixth game on his way to winning the set.

Basilashvili had a chance to break Harrison in each of the American’s five service games in the second set. Each time, Harrison fought back starting in the second game as the American served up an ace that just caught the line. He forced deuce where Basilashvili hit a forehand long to give the American the advantage, then Harrison served up his second ace to hold serve.

“Ryan played unbelievable on his break points,” Basilashvili said.

Harrison broke Basilashvili to go up 3-2, then fought back from 0-40 to force deuce and hold serve for a 4-2 lead. He had to battle back to force deuce in the eighth game and trailed again 15-40 in the final game. Harrison finished off the win with an ace to start celebrating.

Venus ready for return WTA Finals

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SINGAPORE (AP) Venus Williams returns to the year-end WTA Finals for the first time since reaching the 2009 final, and the fifth time overall, starting on Sunday in Singapore.

Williams joins top-ranked Simona Halep of Romania, second-ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain, third-ranked Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, sixth-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, seventh-ranked Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and ninth-ranked Caroline Garcia of France.

They’re all pretty special,” said Williams, of her career appearances in the year-end competition. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

At 37-years-old, Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the year-end championships behind a 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Williams is the oldest player in this draw with 27-year-old Wozniacki the next oldest.

Having played since 1995, Williams has seen the women’s game advance, saying: “The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.”

In 2008, Williams won the WTA Finals title, going 3-0 in the round-robin, and defeating Vera Zvonareva of Russia in the final.

She was also was a semifinalist in her first two appearances in the finals, in 1999 and 2000.

Williams reached two Grand Slam finals this season at the Australian Open, where she lost to what turned out to be an already pregnant younger sister, Serena, and at Wimbledon, where she fell to Muguruza.

Every player but Garcia has a possibility of playing themselves into the year-end No. 1 ranking depending on their result this week. Williams has ranked No. 1 for 11 weeks of her career.

In the round-robin, Williams is situated in the White Group with fellow big-hitters Muguruza and Pliskova, who both ranked No. 1 at some time during this season, and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Williams opens the competition against Pliskova on Sunday. The two are tied at one match apiece in their head-to-head.

She holds a 3-2 winning record over Muguruza and is 1-0 over Ostapenko.

“I think my group is more aggressive style players in the group and the other one is more defending,” Pliskova said. “I just like to play better these players.

“I start with Venus tomorrow, so I beat her once from match point and once I lost very close match. This one is open.”

Goerges ends 6-year title wait with victory at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Julia Goerges ended her six-year wait for another WTA singles title Saturday with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Daria Kasatkina in the Kremlin Cup final.

Goerges cruised to victory against her Russian opponent, who was ranked one place below her at 28th.

The German swept the first five games of the first set before Kasatkina could even get on the board.

Kasatkina put up more resistance at the start of the second, forcing three break points in Goerges’ first service game, but couldn’t convert them and was broken next game.

Goerges is now 3-7 in career singles finals, with her last title in Stuttgart in 2011. Before Saturday’s match, she had lost six straight finals, including three in the space of two months this summer.